The Last Supper


A treasured friend and I met for what we've dubbed 'The Last Supper'. Just shy of the COVID-19 lockdowns, we gathered at our favourite local haunt with wine to enhance our immunity. OK, we know wine doesn't do that. Pasta had never tasted so good! At the time this simple staple was unobtainable due to excessive procurement by doomsday-preppers, daigous and panicked bogans. Good food, good wine and the best conversational company possible, shared with one of the few people with whom time spent is effortlessly splendid.



Now we share remote reports of our isolation household and garden doings, all laced with leisurely pseudo-purposeful procrastination. Such very strange times, but strange they must be. There are no gigs, no event tunings (because they're for gigs) and the meagre modicum of domestic tunings has dwindled exponentially. No government hand-outs, but I can handle it.


In early April 2020 there was a flurry of 'quick-get-the-piano-tuned-before-lockdown' tunings, and jobs where instrumental music teachers conducted their first remote lessons and heard the deplorable state of the home piano. Now even the panic-tuning has died off. I can still tune if folk are prepared to adhere to my guidelines. If not, then bugger off (for now).


Here's how we operate in a COVID-19 world. The clients have all gone to work and school (and work is school). A key has been secreted and I've been given clear instructions as to its whereabouts. Behold. Sensible practices. My client provides sequential guidance as to how to find the piano. Exemplary. If she sees her photos here she'll realise what extraordinary lengths I went to to anonymise the snaps. The house's own mother wouldn't recognise it. I've led you all up the garden path.


Client descriptions: Side gate. The word 'ricketty' may have been used in our phone conversation.


Stairs and path. I'd add: Deceptively steep.


It helps to be as certain-footed as a mountain goat. Henceforth, a particular pair of shoes must be regarded as 'dry weather only'. P.S. I'm fine.



Back door.



Piano. I'd add: 'What a lovely room'. I have tuned this piano before, but it was in a completely different location within the house.



I provide evidence of access and tuning (if the improved sound was not enough). Clients usually enjoy a glimpse of their piano naked. In lieu of conventional personal contact, you're assured thorough communication from me. It is great that we have the means. Photos and videos of pianos (both from clients and for clients) are nothing new. Entering empty houses via hidden keys is nothing new. Even before COVID-19 I had clients whom I have never met face-to-face. I appreciate the levels of trust afforded me as piano technician.



So I'm leading a Phantom of the Opera half-life with regard to piano servicing for the forseeable future. And masks are all the rage right now.



More time for gardening.



I like to keep my hedge neat (not a euphemism). The thing about these garden snaps is that they all predate COVID-19, so it's not even isolation gardening. But now, in lockdown, if I spend the morning picking fallen leaves from my pebble gardens, for the first time ever, I don't feel guilty. If the pace of life slows and things becomes more simple, that is not such a bad thing.



More of my mostly-maintained Murrayas. Topiary is a type of pruning I can understand and feel confident with (kindergarden shapes only). I'm cramming as much garden as I can into my small and troublesome spaces. My whole yard is concrete on rock, so to dig a new hole requires a jackhammer. I work with the holes I have (not a euphemism). I bolted the black rectangle pots to my front fence, fixed to the rails, not the pickets. I'm pleased I figured out a way to achieve that.



My 'jungle', an L-shaped brick planter box flanking a deck. My abode is modest, but I have a range of options as to where to indulge my Inner Cat. Please take physical distancing and self-isolating seriously, folks.



These photos are spontaneous domestic updates for mates. There's no Instagram artifice or Pinterest pretense here. I'm normally more coy (or paranoid) about blogging too many 'home' snaps, but they are creeping into this blog now as I consider documenting some more of my gardening exploits.


My jungle deck viewed through the pergola glass that shelters it. I can't get down right now and straighten that chair nor pick up those few stray leaves.


I have stringent protocols for how I access this roof.


Pre-Corona postcards. I team up with my esteemed buddy (she of 'Last Supper' fame, opening this very blog instalment) to close in on a gardening win-win. She'd mused on the merits of possibly pruning her wayward giant tree philodendron. Oooh, covetable crinkled leafiness. Two days later, a storm rendered the philodendron prostrate, impeding egress to the Hills Hoist. Well, that's just un-Australian. I got the call. 

I never say 'no' to a cutting (even when I barely know where to put it). White gloves, the poorest substitute for gardening gloves (those spines are spiky). My friend calls them 'cleaning gloves' and I expect she's been trained to use them to inspect others' window sills. I call them 'stringing gloves'. Piano technicians go all 'jazz hands' whenever they handle music wire.


The fiddly-diddly weaving of felt strips between the backlengths of piano strings is known as 'Tonia Todmaning'. It's both aesthetic and functional, and Tonia Todman has no idea that I've craftily wedged her moniker into the minutiae of piano restringing.


I trudge with delight. Who'd have thought it possible? Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Not one, but two gargantuan sprigs for me to souvenir...


The Commo is chockas.


Memories. My Nissan hatchback with the mega-load of plants that formed the basis of my jungle. 


I'm glad the nursery bloke knew how to load my car efficiently.


I've squeezed one giant cutting in. Now, where to put the next?


I can't love the leafiness more. It's a testament to the jungle's increasing lushness that I can squeeze in these huge cuttings then barely notice them.


The existing leaves perished, but I'm on the verge of witnessing the first viable giant tree philodendron leaf to be born within my own jungle. 


A guest! My anonymised housemate's homecoming (from essential shopping) coincides with the arrival of my singular visitor (physically distanced) brandishing a booty of takeaway fare from our local fave. 'Tis she, of 'Last Supper' fame. To the jungle deck café immediately.


Time to immerse oneself in a few books, Cazzbo? This title, already a parody, is over-ripe for meme-reinvention. When Marge Simpson reads Love in the Time of Scurvy, she gets so involved in it that she starts fantasizing that she is the woman character in the book, on the ship with the tanned, muscular pirate. 


In her fantasy, Marge looks at the ocean and says, "My, these seas are certainly heaving." The pirate flirtatiously replies, "Well, no more than your bountiful bosom, milady." He continues, "Ah, the seas have quieted. And only in the sweet embrace of quietude can two lovers truly be..." 

At this moment in reality, Lisa starts practicing her saxophone, cutting off the pirate's flirting with Marge in her fantasy. "Ooh, such noise!" he exclaims as Marge's fantasy is apruptly ended. Marge comes back to reality. "Lisa, stop blowing my sex!" She quickly corrects herself, "I mean, stop blowing your sax! Your sax, stop it!"


Business calls.


But what have we learned about pianos? These boom-gate lids are bloody annoying. They usually have to be removed, and the hinge-pins usually need to be withdrawn toward the wall. That means you have to move the piano. First World Injuries, eh? This lid was able to be stabilised under the stairs.


A post-work toast in the jungle's afternoon sun, as I round out this blog entry with a tribute to those most treasured in my life. Salut!


Guidelines for in-home piano servicing during the COVID-19 crisis


---


Peruse, if you will, some more bloggy goodness...








Pianos: A good bollocking

Easter Saturday - Cycling, filming, tuning.

IMBY (in my back yard)

LIST OF BLOG POSTS

A 'new normal'. Piano service during the COVID-19 crisis.


Seeing all my muso mates' discussions and tribulations with Skype (or Zoom) instrumental teaching inspired me to smash out this meme. It's possibly not the best use of my evening, but whaddayagunna do, Cazzbo, write a symphony? Go viral, little meme, in the best way possible... 

---

I normally write this blog in a kind of 'timeless' way, but cataclysmic developments in Australia (and the world) compel me to address the 'now' that is the rampant escalation of the COVID-19 crisis.


--- 

On 20 March 2020 I wrote:

So, this morning's tuning was after the kids' first Skype lesson, wherein the teacher heard the home piano and declared the situation 'an emergency'. True.

I guess I might still be able to tend to such emergencies, I don't know. The Skype teacher had stongly urged the mother to act quickly, before we all go into some sort of lockdown, saying she didn't want the kids (nor her) to be hearing the piano in that state, with no chance of rectification. Theoretically I could enter a house and do my job with no face-to-face at all. One hot-button topic of recent times has been how to disinfect keyboards. I can advise, but I won't specifically be doing that here.

As I have entered others' houses in the last few days it has been a weird dance representing this new dystopian era we're entering. This strange vibe of 'who is trusting - or distrusting - whom?'. Completely appropriate social distancing is practically impossible (why is everyone else in the world a pathological sidler?) to be fair, I have been attempting to distance long before it was mandated. A merry demonstrative waltz I can perform, and no one can hem me into a corner at a party, I will escape, like a trapped tiger (or moggy). I digress.

But I think of all the healthcare workers who must do their best, with PPE and mindful sanitation practices, to assist those who are vulnerable and in need.

Of course, like all musos, all gigs are off, ditto the event tunings (which are for other gigs that are off). So, will I still enter folks' 'good rooms'? Perhaps in a limited capacity. I don't know. If folk have to self-isolate, and want to get creative and further their hobbies, make albums, write symphonies (not to mention Skype-teach) perhaps they might need my services. I'm good either way, I'm not chasing anything at all. I'm fine.

No one would fail to find a way to have a plumber visit if they had a burst pipe. Rarely might a piano's plight be regarded as quite such an emergency, but today it was.


---

Less than a handful of days later that event feels like ancient history and I have no plans to replicate that visit anytime soon.

---

These are extraordinary times. All that we regarded as 'normal' is out the window. It needs to be so. How to proceed is evolving on a daily basis. Things that just a week or two ago were unimaginable are now our reality.

What is happening now in the realm of domestic piano servicing? Folk (at their initiation) leaving the house prior to a service technician's arrival, leaving the door unlocked, or a key under the mat (or some clearly-stipulated hiding place). All conversation about the piano will be remotely via phone, text, email. Photos and videos of the piano can be a useful tool. They will continue to be.

The clear and sensible directive is for all to self-isolate as much as possible, to stay home. If one ventures out for purposeful legitimate reasons, one must physically distance oneself from all others in all circumstances  What will this mean? We must fulfil our piano tuning appointment without meeting. It is the only way to operate ethically and safely.

All my muso mates are grappling with Skype (and Zoom) interfaces over which to conduct instrumental lessons. I can't tune your piano over Skype. I need to enter your house.

Consequently, I'm compelled to have a crack at outlining some guidelines for in-home piano servicing for the next little while. This may all change again very shortly. If this whole kaboodle (my guidelines) are not your cup of tea, that's fine. I don't need to service your piano, I am perfectly fine self-isolating at this time.

What remains now is a small window of time in which folk are motivated (almost clamouring) to get their home pianos sorted out, in anticipation of the almost-inevitable more stringent lockdown regulations, after which we'll hunker down in our bunkers and seek solace in music, teach Skype lessons, receive Skype lessons, self-publish ditties, record albums, write symphonies.

I am healthy and have not travelled anywhere remotely exciting in any recent times. I have not been overseas, nor have I had close association with anyone else who has.

OK, here goes...

---


Guidelines for in-house piano servicing during the COVID-19 crisis.


Access to your house

We will make a plan that can be executed remotely. It might be just you unlocking the front door prior to my arrival then moving to a distant part of the house. It might be you (and yours) leaving the house with a key under the mat for me. I will be punctual for our planned appointment (it is my nature).

Where is the piano within the house?

If it's not blatantly obvious, you might say 'second door on the left off the main hallway'. Or whatevs.

Physical distancing/isolation.

This needs to be hardcore. Hardcore. I'm sorry (but I'm not sorry). This is what is needed. This is the only way we can proceed ethically and responsibly. You will need to be in a part of the house that is distant from the piano room, nowhere near, for the duration of my visit. You might be out. Please allow a minimum of two hours for the service call. Last week's old-school meet-and-greet at the door is now completely off limits.

Access to the piano.

Please clear all the music books, knick-knacks, metronomes, busts of Beethoven and associated cluttery tchotchkes off the top of the piano. If you don't, I'll be moving them, which is fine, but I would far rather you take care of it. I need to be able to open the lid fully and remove several cabinet parts to tune. I will be removing the upper front board, fallboard, and sometimes the lower front board.

Sanitation.

I will have in my tool kit the appropriate means to sanitise my hands, and the piano keyboard. I will clean your keyboard before and after the service call.

Other non-tuning issues with the piano.

If you've got significantly troublesome sticky note(s) or a pedal squeak, let me know. Sometimes these problems are difficult to diagnose, other times they're more obvious. Clients marking problem notes with Post-it Notes or leaving lists is nothing new. We can still communicate remotely about what a realistic scope of work for the piano will be, we just won't be doing it side-by-side.

Appointment duration.

Allow a minimum of two hours for the appointment. It may take longer. I will let you know (via text or call) when I have finished and departed.

Payment method.

Prompt electronic funds transfer will most likely be the most convenient option at this time.

I'm here to help your music-making.

Can it be done? Let's see, let's try. I suspect that this 'new normal' will not last very long at all.

I may be amending this blog entry at any time.




Guidelines for in-house piano servicing during the COVID-19 crisis

Access to your house.

We will make a plan that can be executed remotely. It might be just you unlocking the front door prior to my arrival then moving to a distant part of the house. It might be you (and yours) leaving the house with a key under the mat for me. I will be punctual for our planned appointment (it is my nature).

Where is the piano within the house?

If it's not blatantly obvious, you might say 'second door on the left off the main hallway'. Or whatevs.

Physical distancing/isolation.

This needs to be hardcore. Hardcore. I'm sorry (but I'm not sorry). This is what is needed. This is the only way we can proceed ethically and responsibly. You will need to be in a part of the house that is distant from the piano room, nowhere near, for the duration of my visit. You might be out. Please allow a minimum of two hours for the service call. Last week's old-school meet-and-greet at the door is now completely off limits.

Access to the piano.

Please clear all the music books, knick-knacks, metronomes, busts of Beethoven and associated cluttery tchotchkes off the top of the piano. If you don't, I'll be moving them, which is fine, but I would far rather you take care of it. I need to be able to open the lid fully and remove several cabinet parts to tune. I will be removing the upper front board, fallboard, and sometimes the lower front board.

Sanitation.

I will have in my tool kit the appropriate means to sanitise my hands, and the piano keyboard. I will clean your keyboard before and after the service call.

Other non-tuning issues with the piano.

If you've got significantly troublesome sticky note(s) or a pedal squeak, let me know. Sometimes these problems are difficult to diagnose, other times they're more obvious. Clients marking problem notes with Post-it Notes or leaving lists is nothing new. We can still communicate remotely about what a realistic scope of work for the piano will be, we just won't be doing it side-by-side.

Appointment duration.

Allow a minimum of two hours for the appointment. It may take longer. I will let you know (via text or call) when I have finished and departed.

Payment method.

Prompt electronic funds transfer will most likely be the most convenient option at this time.

I'm here to help your music-making.

Can it be done? Let's see, let's try.

Pianos: Arty facts


 I call this the 'Finger Maths Room'. They're hothousing triple threats according to my calculations. Dancy-prancy schools favour short uprights facing into the room. Note the soundboard and ribs running diagonally behind the vertical backposts.

The soundboard is formed in such a way that the grain follows the general direction of the treble bridge. Sound travels about twice as fast with the grain as against it. This results in the sound not being delivered uniformly to the entire soundboard. To compensate for this uneven delivery, ribs of the same material (spruce) are attached at fixed intervals to its underside.



Jobs at the Art Gallery turn me into an interactive 'happening' creating crazy soundscapes where discord comes into concord. Well, really I'm just the piano tuner. As I work I'm able to people-watch, and I love it. Folk engage and I'm happy to come to the edge of the stage and chat (briefly, so I can get my actual task done). I've been known to photograph the innards of the piano on request because the public must not take to the stage. I'll be trying to describe cross-stringing or somesuch. If anyone attempts to clamber up (apart from me) security will instantly swoop. Hey, practise 'social distancing' y'all, Goughdammit!!



I get a good look at the nearest mural.



Kentaro Yoshida's Night procession of the hundred demons really is the cat's pyjamas.



Galllery tunings are invariably during opening hours. Punters queueing for the latest visiting exhibit are (un)surprisingly noisy. I'm used to burying my head in the piano and pushing though certain levels of adversity as an aural tuner. Sure, I'd love pin-drop silence, but it ain't happening here.



Sort of snooty.


Let's play a round of 'Orange or Yorrick'.



Another in the series Messy musos of the Renaissance.



I gaze at an embroidered artefact as I tune.



Bow down at the merciful flaming penis-pot of Jesus.



It gives a whole new meaning to this phrase (a window in the same church).



This piano client is an artist. Her works blend nature with elements of the human body. Within the rock shapes are possible pulmonary parenchymas. 



Froggy fissures.



The artist's office. Are you suffering chess pains?


Oooh, a peek into the artist's studio...


...but the pièce de résistance - the artist's amelioration of stained grout in the bathroom. It's wonderful that she has the skills to return the grout to its original hideous hue. Guests were directed to use the other of the twin vanity basins.


Hey, everyone's a critic.



This warehouse space is a private residence.



Beyond the glass is a leafy paradise. Venturing toward it I realise one wall is a roller door. It's the garage. I, too, would love to build elevated masonry planter boxes and go green in my garage (if I had a garage).



What musical murder has occurred here? Don't shoot me, I'm just the piano tuner.



I love it all (but need none of it at home).



A different house. I snatch a moment to do a bit of admin (scheduling appointments and answering correspondence) on a shared job. I've settled in while my partner in piano-pampering completes the tuning.

I'm obsessed with writing lists and schedules with pen and paper. I use the calendar and many features on the phone, of course, but nothing beats paper for big-picture planning and processing. I cannot commend it enough. I remember so much more. I nag everyone to make lists. Hey, what's that concealed artwork behind me.



I sneak a peek. Not censorship, but protection from the light that fills the lovely space.



I don't know much about art, but I know what I hate.



From the series Surly teens of the Renaissance.



I don't specifically hate the flowing-skirted surly teen, but this strange dated space (an ample room in a private home) repels (me, at least) with its over-supply of pastel colours, mismatched knick-knacks and dark textured internal brickwork. This view from the piano made every chair seem a commode. Nauseating. Let's hope the performance transported the audience.



A different space, again private, but designed for house concerts. The curved form of the piano lid confirms that (again) one plunges deep, deep into the art near the piano whilst executing the trance-inducing task of tuning. Witness Myxomatosis mist by Rupert Bunny. Kidding.



Kudos to Mr and Mrs Miffy, the Bunny Room has been constructed to provide a very stable environment for the piano. The magical 42 per cent relative humidity (perfect for a piano) is bang-on here. A piano can handle higher levels of humidity (but not too high) but what is important is minimising the changes and fluctuations. The more stable and unvarying the environment, the better for the life of the tuning and the life of the piano itself. But there's some sinister fiddling going afoot on that vase.



Deep, deep into the art I go.



What a delight. I was reminded of what a spectacular city I live in. Wow, what an awful lot of boat people. But seriously, I was lulled for a while into forgetting that the powers-that-be are greedily raping this city by prioritising private tollways and inappropriate over-development at every turn. 


Now there's a piece of infrastructure you could set your watch to.